Pinnacles National Monument is home to unique geologic structures that some believe call for an upgrade to national park status.

San Benito County Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said his short time in Washington, D.C. last week to testify before a legislative subcommittee on the benefits of making Pinnacles National Monument a national park was “very worthwhile.”

Muenzer, whose district includes Pinnacles on the south end of the county, said he was invited by Congressman Sam Farr’s office to testify the Thursday before the hearing. The invitation required an emergency agenda item at the June 5 supervisors meeting to approve the travel from June 7-9.

“It would increase tourism,” Muenzer said of the main benefit to the proposed change in designation for the monument.

He said he has talked to staff members who work at the monument who have said because of the designation as a monument, visitors from out of the area expect to see a statue or something akin to Mount Rushmore.

“People are coming to visit San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Big Sur,” Muenzer said. “If they see the national monument and are thinking it’s a statue, they might not go an hour out of their way. But they might go an hour out of the way to visit a national park.”

Muenzer worked with Farr’s office staff to submit a written version of the testimony he planned to give in Washington before the subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands in support of the House of Representatives Bill 3641. He had to submit his written testimony 48 hours in advance of the hearing.

“All national parks are in somebody’s backyard,” Farr said. “The committee wants to hear from people who live in the backyard.”

He said Muenzer was a good choice to testify because he lives in the district in which Pinnacles National Monument is located, he owns a business in the county and he is from a multi-generational local family.

“They want to know if (the upgrade to a national park) will promote tourism and provide more business,” Farr said. “He was the best person to answer those questions.”

Muenzer met with Far in his D.C. office and then walked upstairs to the session.

“The subcommittee was appreciative of the fact that we took the time and money to come out and testify before them,” Muenzer said. “They wanted to make sure there was local support for that bill and I think that demonstrated it.”

He was given five minutes to talk about the benefits of having a national park for San Benito County. Before he talked, he had heard the chair of the subcommittee was a stickler for speakers sticking to their allotted time so he watched the lights on the timer closely, as they changed from green to yellow as a warning before changing to red to alert the speaker to stop talking.

“I looked down and it was yellow and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to wrap it up,’” he said.

Jon Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, also spoke in favor of changing the designation of Pinnacles to a national park.

Farr said Pinnacles is a unique geological formation the likes of which is not found anywhere else in the nation.

“No other place in the national inventory do you have an opportunity to see the upwelling of these tectonic plates clash and collide,” he said. “Everyone has heard about California being earthquake country. It’s a liability but it could also be an asset for Hollister.”

Muenzer said the bill still has a ways to go as it will move onto the committee if it is recommended by the subcommittee. From there it would go to the House of Representatives and then the Senate before possible approval.

“It’s strange to go through all that for a five-minute presentation, but I do feel it makes a difference,” Muenzer said.

Farr himself said he couldn’t say how long it would take before the bill is decided. He said it would likely be placed on the suspension calendar for less controversial items and that the bill had bipartisan support.

“Hopefully we can get it out of the house and Barbara Boxer can work her magic (in the senate),” he said. “The good news is they heard it. They usually don’t hear things they don’t want to deal with.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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